Add another serious health complication to the list of chronic ailments linked to smoking – back pain. Smoking has long been recognized as the cause for many serious health problems, including cancer, emphysema and asthma. “It is easy to attribute lung disease to smoking,” says Dr. William Madosky of Madosky Chiropractic and Acupuncture Center in St. Louis. “But few people make the connection between smoking and spinal injury, early spinal degeneration and chronic back pain.”
A study by the National Spine Network reports that smokers are more likely to experience episodes of back pain that are more severe and last longer each day than those who do not smoke. Other studies suggest that smoking decreases lung capacity and contributes to hardening of the arteries that supply blood to spinal bones and adjacent ligaments and nerves. “When the body is deprived of adequate oxygen and blood supply, injuries are more likely to occur and take longer to heal,” explains Dr. Madosky. “Further, nicotine found in cigarettes interferes with the effectiveness of estrogen and vitamins the body uses to repair tissue and bone following spinal and hip fractures.” Each of these factors prolongs recovery and adds to incapacitating back pain.
Smoking and Back Pain / Add One
In addition, smokers tend to have specific lifestyle factors that compound the direct physical damage smoking does to the back. Poor eating habits, specifically a diet lacking in calcium and other nutrients that maintain strong bones can lead to osteoporosis and fractures. Lack of exercise means core muscle groups, namely upper back, lower back and abdominal muscles, may not be strong enough to provide proper lumbar support.
Fortunately, smokers can take steps to reduce their risk of back injury and pain. And while it’s not easy, the first step is to quit. Smoking cessation programs, under the care of a healthcare professional, which includes acupuncture, counseling and hypnosis, are often critical tools. “An effective program will examine lifestyle habits that contribute to smoking and develop strategies to change them,” advises Dr. Madosky. These changes can do more than just help quit smoking. Including proper diet and exercise in the daily routine are excellent steps towards improved back health and overall well-being.